Best of 2016: Relationships

Best of 2016 relationships have grown beautifully this year, resulting in some of the most gorgeously compelling scenes we’ve seen in a while. But best of all, relationships have strengthened wonderfully. They’ve endured. They’ve fought. Whether the bonds have been platonic or romantic, they’ve effortlessly found their way into our hearts and onto this list.

Be sure to check out the stunning work Nerdy Girl Notes and TV Examined have done breaking down their favorite relationships as well.

1. The Big Three
This is Us

This is Us is an incredibly important show. Its realistic depiction of families and the struggles they face have become a phenomenon on Tuesday nights. This Is Us gives its audience the means to feel and to feel deeply. It puts us right in the center of the Pearson family’s life and it reminds us of how empowering sibling love truly is. The best part about having a sibling is that it can get as ugly as possible, but with love being the foundation the bonds are built on, forgiveness will win. Kevin, Kate, and Randall are all incredibly different from one another — physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but they’re The Big Three. They’ve faced it all. They’ve shredded one another apart and built each other up. It clearly hasn’t been an easy road for them, but from what we’ve seen in the first half of the series, The Big Three will always be one. Kevin and Kate can get along easier because they’re twins, but the love they share for Randall runs immensely deep. It may not be as evident when they’re kids and it may not be seen as intensely today, but it’s there. They’d defend one another through everything — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And as the seasons’ progress, I’m certain the series will explore these relationships even further. I’m certain the bond will be fortified even further.

2. Emma Swan and Henry Mills
Once Upon A Time

The very first relationship that had most of us on Once Upon A Time in tears was the mother/son relationship between Emma and Henry. And as the seasons progressed, their bond grew thicker. And thankfully, this year Once Upon A Time writers decided it was time to revisit the operations we all adored. Henry’s grown into an admirably strong kid, and this year, his optimism and unwavering belief in happy endings served as strength for Emma. When Killian was down in the Underworld, Henry was there to remind Emma of the fact that there’s nothing they can’t accomplish — their family always finds each other. Their operations are always successful. The best part of Emma and Henry’s relationship has always been the fact they’ve believed in one another with a fervency that’s consistently inspired them to rise. And it’s been beautiful to see that exploration results in a conversation that gave Henry the chance to see that for his mother, he’s always been the happy ending she’s needed.

3. Killian Jones and Emma Swan
Once Upon A Time

Killian and Emma’s relationship has been the most beautiful romantic relationship to grace our screens in a while. Sometimes, in its later seasons, love stories aren’t established with the same depth as they began, but with Killian and Emma, every season makes them stronger. Every adventure makes them more picturesque. After three seasons of proving he’d do anything for Emma, it was her turn to make sure he understood that just as he’d go to the ends of the earth or time for her, she’d do the same. Emma’s quest to the underworld wasn’t entirely a selfish desire to bring her love back, it was also the selfless quest to make sure his death wasn’t in vain. It was a journey to make sure he got to live the life he deserved because his heroic journey has been admirable on a number of levels. He deserved too much to lose it all at once. But while fiercely and devotedly protecting one another has been beautiful to witness, it’s the profound growth they face together that’s made them feel like an iconic fairytale that we’ll always cherish.

True Love is strength — it’s the promise that in challenging times, forgiveness and adoration will overcome whatever battle has presented itself to them. And through each adventure, they’ve courageously chosen to be better than they were yesterday because they’ve wanted to give their person the very best versions of themselves. Killian and Emma have carefully and patiently helped one another become the best versions of themselves. They’ve listened intently. They’ve respected ceaselessly. But perhaps the most beautiful part of their relationship lies in the understanding that as lost souls, they’ll always find comfort in each other. They’ll always have someone who understands every ounce of their struggles. Those overwhelmingly painful emotions  backed by the belief that they could never be happy are now replaced with the understanding that they’ve been found. Home, is then not a place, but a person whose love anchors the fact that they’re worthy of endless praise and happiness.

4. Peggy Carter and Daniel Sousa 
Agent Carter

It’s no surprise that I’m a massive fans of couples that are also partners — couples who fight together then come home to one another. Season 2 delivered a lot, but its means of fortifying this Best of 2016 relationship has been beautifully captivating. Daniel has always seen Peggy as she is, and he’s believed in her with a fierceness that was absent in most men. In a world where men were often threatened by Peggy’s strength, Daniel was amazed by it. And much like Steve Rogers, Daniel always gave Peggy the credit she deserved. He acknowledged her value and he stood by her as her equal reminding her of the fact that she doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. He’s there. He’s by her side through everything and if he has to, he’ll always choose her. Over and over again even if that means undermining orders from his superiors. Because they both faced constant criticism, when I think of them, I’m reminded of The Script’s “Superheroes”. (Listen to it. Trust me.) The two have tirelessly fought the honorable fight, and it’s what has landed them into each other’s arms — a safe place where they can be certain they’re adored, understood, and cherished. A safe place where they know without a shadow of a doubt that they’ve found their moral compass — their light in dark times. As equals, Daniel and Peggy have seen one another as they truly are. They’ve seen one another for what’s inside. It was beautiful to see Daniel stand steadfastly to the end with Peggy. It was beautiful to see him continuously remind her of the fact that she has his unwavering support. And it was beautiful to watch Peggy see the selflessness that governs each of Daniel’s decisions. In the same way that Steve Rogers wasn’t just “a red, white, and blue shield”, Daniel Sousa is more than his “aluminum crutch.” When the rest of the world saw a wounded, quiet solider, Peggy Carter saw a brave, indescribably kind soul whose honor lies in his honesty and altruism.

5. Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis
Agent Carter

TV’s most entertaining friendship — am I right!? Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis were the heart of season one, and in season two the series explored their dynamic further and thereby, strengthening their friendship beautifully. As their adventures grew more dangerous and their struggles increased, they grew with one another through honesty and conversation. The best of friendships aren’t perfect — tensions rise, heartaches are explored, and relationships are tested. But when two people care profoundly for one another and life pins them against each other, they fight and pull through. Jarvis and Peggy needed one another to find parts of themselves they would’ve otherwise not been able to. They were there through the heartaches and they were there through the happiest of times. And with each heartache, they were each other’s strength in trying times.

6. Luke Danes and Lorelai Gilmore
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Luke and Lorelai have been one of my favorite couples since I could remember. And when news of the revival broke, my one hope was that they’d still be together. Luke and Lorelai are the perfect examples of opposites attract. Their distinct personalities woven intricately with one another’s has created an unbreakable bond filled with constant laughter. And that’s perhaps one of my favorite things about the two this year — they’ve smiled almost all throughout the revival. They’ve smiled at the other’s quirks and they’ve appreciated whatever word has left the other’s mouth. Luke and Lorelai have always been incredibly fascinated with one another, and it’s beautiful to see that no part of that fascination has faded — it has only grown. And to finally see their wedding on our screens was an unexpected blessing many of us will certainly cherish. They did it. Luke and Lorelai made it.

7. Gilmore Girls 
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As another part of my Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life wish list, I wanted to see the Gilmore women reach a level of peace that they hadn’t been able to before. And thankfully they did so, which makes me thrilled to add them to our Best of 2016 relationships list. While it wasn’t without struggles and far from an easy route, it’s clear now more than ever that there’s nothing these women can’t face. They are who they are because of where they come from and the bonds they’ve strengthened. And though their adventures are not always filled with kindness, it’s what makes them special. Sometimes, the best stories are told through the darkest times, and when it comes to the Gilmore women, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

8. Harvey Specter and Donna Paulsen

There have never been two people who’ve needed one another more than Harvey Specter and Donna Paulsen. Two people who’ve understood each other in every area of their lives. Two people who’d give their absolute all for each other in the blink of an eye. Anyone who wants these two together knows that it’s been the most frustrating times watching the series toy with the possibility of will they, won’t they. But thankfully, by some miracle, this year, the two have gotten even closer than before. There’s no other person Harvey could let his walls down with. There’s no other person Harvey could break in front of. And after Jessica left, it was emotionally compelling to see Harvey and Donna face the unknown together. It was profoundly gorgeous to know without a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happens, the two will always be able to find serenity with one another. Whether they realize it or not, in every sense of the word, they are each other’s person. They are each other’s world. In whatever way they’re together, they’re home. They’re safe. They’re appreciated.

9. Elizabeth McCord and Henry McCord
Madam Secretary 

Henry and Elizabeth are incredibly strong as individuals, but together they’re unshakable. Together, they’re a force to be reckoned with. There aren’t many solid married couples on-screen now a days, thereby watching these two take on life together is the gift that keeps on giving. There’s great beauty in simplicity, and the quiet moments the two share at the end of their days always speaks wonders. Henry and Elizabeth are the best team — the partnership they ceaselessly strengthen serves as great inspiration and comfort for whoever stands in front of them. Because there’s nothing they can’t face together, life is effortlessly better. And to watch them cherish one another has made for another solid year of Madam Secretary.

10. Ginny Baker and Mike Lawson

I didn’t go into Pitch expecting to care about this relationship as much as I already do. And here we are “shipping” them like Fed Ex because it’s almost impossible not to. Mike and Ginny have grown to understand one another in a way the two hadn’t experienced before. In finding the unexpected friend in their teammate, their feelings for one another silently grew as they attempted to thread around them. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a type of serenity around each other they’ve desperately needed and can no longer be without. There’s a gorgeously outspoken mutual respect for one another that undoubtedly makes them stronger as teammates and as friends. And it’s that very respect which has had a number of us cheering from day one.

11. Maya Hart and Riley Matthews
Girl Meets World

Maya Hart and Riley Matthews are the mini Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins, and thereby, deserve a spot on our Best of 2016 relationships list. The way these two care for one another has shamelessly made me cry more often than not. People don’t praise these type of friendships enough. The kind that equates to an unwavering and unbreakable sisterhood. No two people will ever understand one another more than they do. And no two people will ever protect each other in the same way. This year, Maya and Riley have authenticated the fact that while relationships come and go, a best friend, a sister never will. To want each other’s happiness as much as they do isn’t seen often in the world, and it serves as a wonderful reminder for all generations that this is how best friends should be towards for one another.

12. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark
Game of Thrones

For so long, Sansa’s had a childlike admiration towards her brothers believing with every fiber of her being that they’re the definitions of heroes. They are the rightful rulers. And they are the kindest of souls. Thereby, to see that admiration come to play in her relationship with Jon after the two finally reunited has been remarkable. Sansa’s beliefs had always been right — her brothers are the most noble. And Jon’s protectiveness after all these years apart holds its own poignantly in their relationship. At the moment, the siblings solely have each other and there’s no chance they’d pass up any opportunity to make sure the other’s uplifted. If they’re going to take Winterfell back, they’re going to do it as a team. They’re going to do it as a family. And they’re going to make sure the other knows that they have each other’s back to the end. Even with the reveal that Jon isn’t actually Ned Stark’s son, it’s evident that the two will continue protecting one another as though they are.

13. Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings
The Americans

There’s no TV series that’s established a romantic relationship in the way The Americans has, consistently landing themselves on our Best of 2016 relationships list. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings have come so far from the pair that was introduced to us in season one and it’s been impeccable to witness especially given Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys’ unparalleled chemistry. This year, The Americans took one of the strongest TV relationships and fortified it even further creating something absolutely stunning and irreplaceable. It’s in the quiet moments where Philip and Elizabeth share most of their adoration for one another. And it’s the tender casual intimacy that has showcased just how deeply the two need and cherish one another. This year, series writers did a spectacular job of fortifying their adoration through their struggles as parents and the surfacing doubts towards undercover relationships. It’s filled viewers with the belief and understanding that this relationship is real. It’s very real. And though it may be dark at times, no two people will ache for one another in the same way.

14. Stranger Things Kids
Stranger Things

Stranger Things became the worldwide phenomenon everyone talked about in the summer, making it one of the Best of 2016 features everywhere. And while the series is outstanding for a number of groundbreaking reasons, it’s the friendship between the kids that’s floored us the most. The Goonies Part Deux essentially. Dustin, Mike, Lucas, and El were absolutely delightful to get to know. And their fervent faith in finding Will made each of the episodes a unique adventure. You knew that no matter what happened, these kids wouldn’t give up on each other. And that’s not a promise that could be transcended as easily. Additionally, Eleven’s choice to sacrifice herself for her friends stood out as one of the most defining moments in the series’ (hopefully long) history. She had found a home with her friends, and it’s a home she’s willing to tirelessly protect.

15. Lucy Preston and Wyatt Logan

What I’ve come to find most riveting is how organically their relationship is played out. Wyatt and Lucy are ridiculously different, but the teamwork that’s already established has been exceptional. There’s an unspoken understanding between them. A trust and a comfort that they’ve established through the missions that’s made them incredibly vital to one another. And to deny the explosive chemistry between them would be wrong on a number of levels. The mission was to save history, but somewhere along the way, protecting one another became an even bigger priority. Their focus shifted towards the other’s emotions and needs. Sometimes, it’s as simple as Wyatt helping Lucy buckle in because she’s still too nervous to be in the machine. Sometimes, it’s Lucy making sure a memory about Jessica hasn’t broken Wyatt all over again. And sometimes, it’s a quick, profoundly layered expressions that simply reveals that they’re there — ready and willing to help in whatever way they can. They listen. They care. Through the subtly and profoundly nuanced performances, Matt Lanter and Abigail Spencer are making sure the duo’s development comes off organic. And it’s the natural growth that’s made them as compelling as they are.

16. Time Travel Team

I cannot wait for what’s in store for Timeless because I cannot wait to see this team strengthen their bonds even further. In a matter of 10 episodes, Rufus Carlin, Wyatt Logan, and Lucy Preston have protected one another beautifully. They’ve come into each other’s lives unexpectedly and through the many adventures they’ve already shared they’ve grown to care deeply. It’s especially incredible to see how fiercely Lucy and Wyatt care to protect Rufus because they’ve seen his heart. They know how difficult it is for him. They know how desperately he wants to do good. And they’ve seen the darkness the world exhibits towards him. This team knows how to work together. They value each other’s skills and they give each other ample opportunities to take charge.

Honorable Mention: Jay Halstead and Erin Lindsay (Chicago P.D.), Barry Allen and Iris West (The Flash), Team Flash (The Flash), Blip and Evelyn Sanders (Pitch). 

Be sure to check out more of our Year-End reviews starting with a tribute to Sundance’s Rectify. Our Top 16 Performers, Top 16 Characters, and 16 Little Gems.

Which pairs would be featured in your Best of 2016 relationships list?


  1. This goes for all of your mentions of them, but especially this one: you are the first person who has managed to make me at all interested in Stranger Things. Friendships like theirs are so important to see in the media and I love that it was one of the highlights of the show for you. And your thoughts on Philip and Elizabeth were gorgeous. This is a great list, babe.

    1. I was the last person to watch Stranger Things and frankly I didn’t think I’d get into it because I’m the biggest chicken in the world, but these friendship enamored me and it’s especially special for the underdog kids that are constantly bullied or ignored. If you ever do decide to watch, you will adore these friendships. I’m sure of it. Thanks a million for the sweet words, my dear!

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